A young priest, Father Chisholm is sent to China to establish a Catholic parish among the non-Christian Chinese. While his boyhood friend, also a priest, flourishes in his calling as a ...
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A young priest, Father Chisholm is sent to China to establish a Catholic parish among the non-Christian Chinese. While his boyhood friend, also a priest, flourishes in his calling as a priest in a more Christian area of the world, Father Chisholm struggles. He encounters hostility, isolation, disease, poverty and a variety of set backs which humble him, but make him more determined than ever to succeed. Over the span of many years he gains acceptance and a growing congregation among the Chinese, through his quiet determination, understanding and patience.Written by
E.W. DesMarais <Jlongst@aol.com>
According to Hollywood columnist Erskine Johnson, Joseph Cotten tested for the role of the minister in The Keys of the Kingdom. He also referred to the project as David O Selznick's version although screen credits list no such connection (Newspaper Enterprise Association, "Erskine Johnson's Hollywood," The Sa Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino California, Sunday 1 February 1942, Volume 48, page 20.) See more »
In the scene where Father Francis Chisholm (Gregory Peck) is leaving his mission in China after being ordered into retirement, the children are heard singing his favorite hymn as he steps from the car, but when the camera shows the children singing, it is obvious that they are mouthing something entirely different from what is being heard. See more »
On a September evening in 1938, Father Francis Chisholm returned to his little church near Tweedside, Scotland.
Father Francis Chisholm:
Good afternoon, Monsignor.
Good afternoon, Father.
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Peck Delivers a Message of Tolerance and Understanding
The trailer for "The Keys of the Kingdom" compares the 1944 film to the prior classics "Goodbye Mr. Chips" and "How Green Was My Valley," and the comparisons are apt. Like the two earlier films, "The Keys of the Kingdom" is the narrated story of a man's life with present-day scenes as bookends. All three films follow ordinary men who leave indelible legacies, but fail to grasp the worth of their own accomplishments. While Mr. Chips is an English teacher and young Huw Morgan is a Welsh miner's son, Father Francis Chisholm is a Scottish missionary priest in China.
In this well written adaptation of the A. J. Cronin novel by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Nunnally Johnson, Gregory Peck underplays the role of Francis Chisholm effectively and with the solid dignity that distinguished Peck's long career. In only his second screen role, Peck is a Christ-like figure who accepts people as they are, which puts him at odds with the dogmatic bureaucrats that run his church. Vincent Price is colorful as Angus Mealy, an ambitious fellow priest who puts personal advancement above godliness, and Thomas Mitchell is equally fine as Willie Tulloch, a doctor who puts his service to humanity above religion. Besides Price and Mitchell, the film has a rich cast of such other outstanding character players as Edmund Gwen, Anne Revere, Cedric Hardwick, Sara Allgood, Benson Fong, and Roddy McDowall. Each of these fine performers makes even the smallest role memorable. While Rose Stradner is fine as the Reverend Mother, the film treads a delicate line with its subtle hint at a love story between her and Father Chisholm. Perhaps there was an underlying attraction between the two that went beyond mere friendship, but, if so, that was daring territory to explore during the 1940's.
While "Keys of the Kingdom" runs more than two hours, the engrossing story should hold the attention of viewers who loved "How Green Was My Valley" and "Goodbye Mr. Chips." The film provides an emotional payoff that equals those in the earlier films, and damp eyes and a sniffle or two will likely affect even the hardest hearts. While at times sentimental in the best sense of the word, "The Keys of the Kingdom" also has an important message of acceptance that is particularly relevant today. Father Chisholm does not criticize "heathens" or "atheists," but rather respects their points of view and loves them for their good deeds regardless of their philosophies. When one of Chisholm's non-believer friends lays dying, the priest does not pressure him to convert on his deathbed, and the dying man thanks his friend for his respect and for allowing him to die as he had lived. The film certainly makes a strong point when the kindest, most generous works were those done by the non-believers, the doctor and Mr. Chia, the Chinese landowner, while the most selfish individual was the self-serving social-climbing priest played by Vincent Price. Peck's acceptance of and offer of friendship to the Protestant missionaries was yet another example of the man's Christianity, which placed him at odds with his own church and did more to illustrate Christ's message than the bureaucratic church hierarchy that would not even send money to fund the mission and told him to convert people of means. Although there are a few slow stretches and the finished film is not the classic that its creators intended, "The Keys of the Kingdom" is rewarding and a showcase for a young Gregory Peck, who was poised at the dawn of his stardom.
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